GREAT BARRINGTON — When the coronavirus pandemic hit in the spring, college courses went remote for Monument Mountain Regional High School alums and longtime friends Teddy Michaels and Sam Lyons.
College students everywhere had scattered out, back to their hometowns. As the lockdowns progressed, students of all ages found themselves disconnected, and they lost access to a wide range of opportunity during and after school.
But, some, like Lyons and Michaels, are making new connections for those at their alma mater.
They have launched a free virtual tutoring service, Monument Alumni Tutors, that pairs Monument students with alumni mentors, matched by discipline and interest. It’s a free service with an easy online sign-up where students can pick subjects that range from math to music to chemistry, and even college admissions.
It can be as simple as having someone to play an instrument with, or to get help with a difficult subject.
Having volunteered for another such program while riding out the pandemic in his family’s home in Richmond, Michaels, a Columbia College senior, wanted to do that in his backyard.
Lyons, a Middlebury College senior who took this semester off to work at a camp in Idaho, loved the idea, and the two consulted with high school officials, faculty and some students.
The program, which began last month, has about 20 participants and 30 alumni tutors. Feedback so far is “very good; very promising,” Michaels said.
A lecture series is underway, with topics covered by alumni so far that include video game development, electrical engineering and an exploration of careers in health care. On Sunday, alumni Logan Malik will talk about his work organizing Alex Morse’s failed U.S. congressional campaign. And Nico Roszkowski will talk about education in prisons.
The hope is to not only include as many students as possible, but to help alumni from other Berkshire County high schools start up a service. Michaels said that when he began volunteering for a similar program, flypaper tutors, in the spring, the situation was more of an emergency.
“It was students looking for help on their homework assignments just so they could pass their courses, things like that,” he said.
He and Lyons could see that, as high schools embarked on new ways of educating amid challenging conditions, something more was needed.
“We wanted to kind of tend to our own garden, and in this national crisis, we just turned to our own backyard.”
They want the service to be “adaptable,” Michaels said.
“Whatever students need, we got you,” he added.
“We’re here to help as many people as we can in any way that we can,” Lyons said.